I've learned some things this year.

Posted on by Elissa Mielke

Last year at this time I was in Tokyo, writing songs on my micro-korg on a rooftop somewhere. So strange to think of all that happens in a year.
This has been a big year of growth for me; my first year of taking on music-making as a full time thing. 

Here are some lessons I learned -through my own mistakes, and from others- in my first year of self-employment as a creative person:

1. Treat your act of creating as you would a more conventional job. Set your alarm. Create a morning routine which gets you inspired. Even if you're working at home, designate a corner for creation. Get dressed as if you’re heading to an office. Get out of your sleepy clothes. 

2. Get advice from everyone you can. I am slowly compiling ideas from self-employed creative people and am beginning to learn from their mistakes, while I make my own. The book "The War of Art" is awesome- reading it kills my procrastination monster every time. Also the book "Rituals."

3. Just start! This is the hardest part for me. When I approach something new, like a commissioned song, it is so daunting and impossible. Sometimes I say "I will start on this for 15 minutes and that's all I have to do today." And usually when I start, I can't stop. I am on a train of ideas and don't want to get off of it. Sometimes starting something new works better when I let myself work in 30 minute intervals with short breaks in between. Find what works for you, but just start.


4. Getting inspired is also part of your job. If you are an accountant, going to a financial seminar is training- it makes you better at your job and gets you excited about numbers (or so I have heard).
Going to a show inspires me. It teaches me to get off my ass and write, and edit, and practice; so that one day I can make people feel like I did in the audience. This is my training (also see inspiring conversations, art gallery visits, running while listening to music to get all my thoughts out in a physical way). Yesterday I danced by myself wearing a jumpsuit to commercial radio. It reminded me that sometimes, it's enough for a song to make someone feel good. This was my version of an accounting seminar. 

5. Give new ideas a chance. I am very critical of things I make, especially now that I'm learning what a good song is. But I need to make mistakes to learn. I need to get the bad ideas out and let them grow- that allows for the good ones to grow underneath. You can always write another one.

6. Fail. If you read any great artist's biography (the real one, not the publicized narrative that makes them out to be perfect), you read failure, failure, failure, breakthrough. Dr. Seuss getting laughed at for his silly drawings. Stravinsky causing a riot with his Rite of Spring. I figure I've got at least a good decade of passionate failing left before I have a real artistic breakthrough. So I'd better get started! 

I'll share more soon, this is just a start. What have you learned? I'd love to learn from you.